If you spend any amount of time outdoors, sunglasses are a must, and activities such as cycling compound the need for glasses. Just as we select clothing or sunblock to protect our skin, we need to do the same for our eyes. And changing lighting conditions call for different lenses. Sometimes we’ll want a lighter or darker tint, or polarized, or lenses that increase contrast. If you’re lucky enough to have 20/20 vision, buying sunglasses is somewhat easier, but quality glasses generally start around the $100 mark. Having to buy more than one pair can strain most budgets, and that can mean spending less on other gear. Which is why it’s nice to see more companies offering frames with interchangeable lenses, allowing you to stretch your budget, but more importantly, you can wear the same pair of glasses from early morning to mid-day sun, or go from bright light to dusk. Changing lenses is not always that easy though. At least, it wasn’t until Switch got into the game.
Switch Vision offers a unique solution for eye wear. Very small but powerful magnets are embedded into the edge of each lens, with its mate tucked inside the lens channel of the frame. The lenses can be removed with a bit of force, but not so easily that they’ll come out unexpectedly. And they practically fly right into place once the magnets get close. Being someone who needs prescription specs for driving in low light, but not the rest of the time, this technology has plenty of appeal to me, especially since every frame (but not necessarily every lens) they sell is RX ready. So when I was offered the opportunity to review a pair of their H-wall Wrap glasses, with polarized reflective bronze as well as low-light amber lenses, I jumped at the chance.
Testing sunglasses is easy enough. Put them on, and do stuff outdoors. The amber lenses are ideal for early morning or late afternoon hikes and bike rides. If you’ve ever ridden a fast trail through dense trees, you know how unpleasant it can be when your dark shades are suddenly too dark, and choosing your line becomes difficult. With only 72% of light blocked by the lenses, and the tint actually kicking up the contrast a notch, they really do improve my riding. We’ve got a MUP that runs along the river where I live, and quite a bit of it has a canopy of trees overhead. The rose amber is just dark enough in the brighter sections, but perfect in the open shade. And the polarized lenses are great for bright days, especially on the water. As a photographer, I can appreciate the extra “snap” they give colors, especially blues and greens. Switching between lenses was ridiculously simple, and the spare pair even came with their own handy case.
Each lens is also scratch and smudge resistant, as well as shatterproof and water repellant. On the front surface of each multi-layer lens is a patented coating called TriGuard™, which offers the aforementioned properties, plus makes them easy to clean. By my count, there are 14 different lens options to cover every lighting condition you might encounter, short of welding. Oh, the drawstring carry pouch is also great for cleaning the lenses. Don’t think for a minute that they put this cool technology in some boring frames though. My evaluation pair were an attractive dark tortoise color, with brown rubber grips on the earpieces, and a soft rubber nose piece. Cutouts on either side are a nice design touch and probably cut the already light weight a bit more, but the nose pads have actual vents to minimize fogging. This went untested, as Utah has zero moisture this time of year – breathe dry air, exhale dust.
What’s the verdict? Overall, they felt light, gripped well, and the optical clarity combined with increased contrast make for excellent performance. Since you’re essentially getting two pairs of glasses for the price of one, I rate them a great value as well. While I like the H-wall Wrap in Dark Tortoise, they have 56 different combinations of frames and colors, plus the previously mentioned lens options, so there’s a pretty good chance they have something for everyone. Online pricing varies widely – I saw my test pair for less than $120, to over $180. But it’s best to make sure you buy from an authorized dealer, so you can take advantage of the warranty which covers materials and workmanship for a year. Even after that year is up, they still back their product for a small processing fee. And if you lose or break a lens, replacements are much less than a new pair of glasses. See them all at switchvision.com